i?8 THE GAY GENIUS magistrate at Fouchow, a little below Chungking in Szechuen, a girl appeared in his dream and said to him: "I am your previous self and I am buried in a certain place. The coffin is decayed and on the left side there is a big ant nest. Please have it removed for me." Huang did so, and the body odour in his left armpit disappeared thereafter. As an assistant magistrate Su had no great responsibilities except pre* siding at court trials. This was something he heartily disliked, knowing that the people who had been arrested were chiefly those who had violated laws of the new regime, laws that he disapproved. Yet there was the law and he could not alter it. It is perhaps easiest to under- stand the mind and heart of Su Tungpo at this period by reading the poem he wrote on New Year's Eve when he had to try prisoners arrested for salt smuggling. The government monopoly had taken over the trade in salt, but the traders in the salt-producing area around Hang- chow Bay refused to be driven out of business. The complete situation^ of salt smuggling was embodied in a letter by Su Tungpo to a cabinet minister. We are not concerned here with the objective conditions, but rather with the poet's attitude towards his fellow-men, for he saw no difference between himself and those on trial. "On New Year's Eve, I should go home early, But am by official duties detained. With tears in my eyes I hold my brush, And feel sorry for those in chains. The poor are trying to make their living, But fall into the clutches of the law. I, too, cling to an official job, And carry on against my wish for rest. What difference is there between myself And those more ignorant than I ? Who can set them free for the time being? Silently I bow my head in shame." * To Tseyu he wrote more intimately: "There are certain things which used to shame me, but of which I am no longer ashamed now. I sit facing the ragged prisoners and witness their flogging. When I talked with my superiors, my mouth said 'yes' but my heart said 'no'. What % the use of occupying a high position, while degrading one's character? My vital spirit has shrunk and withered, no longer what it used to be." In another poem he spoke about the sufferings of the people under the paochia system, and described how the people screamed when they were whipped, and how even men's wives and children were put in jail. * A facsimile of the original of this poem in the poet's own handwriting is reproduced in the beginning of this book.